In defense of Christmas

Know how quickly some folks pound their delete button and wipe Jesus right out of the December Holiday Shopping Season? Well, I practice twice a week on my insert button, so I can put Him right back into CHRISTmas.

CHRISTmas … CHRISTmas … CHRISTmas … Take that, Grinches and secularists! Get your own reasons for your own seasons, but December 25th? We Christians were there first, and we’re not going anywhere until He comes back.

You may ask why I’m pontificating on Christmas before the traditional launch of holiday ads right after Thanksgiving, no, Halloween, uh, Labor Day. My answer is found in late-night radio dude Whitley Strieber and from Hallmark’s prolific movie-making apparatus. Earlier today, two things upset my lazy Saturday. First was a Strieber quote I stumbled upon while perusing email. Second was a mention by the greeting card people that Christmas in July is just around the corner.

“Every Christmas now for years, I have found myself wondering about the point of the celebration. As the holiday has become more ecumenical and secular, it has lost much of the magic that I remember so fondly from childhood.”

— Whitley Strieber

My only mental image of Mr. Strieber is one I manufactured of him huddled on a couch with Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix. In my daydream, he’s wearing a tinfoil hat and waiting for Signs of what extraterrestrial horrors director M. Night Shyamalan is about to unleash. That seems about right to me coming from Strieber. All I really know about him is that he frequently guests on all-night radio marathons celebrating all things weird. Whenever I’m on the road and in need of AM Radio stimulation at 2am, Whitley’s my go-to guy.

Hey, Whitley, news flash: CHRISTmas hasn’t lost any of its magic.

We have.

As more and more Holiday Stuff is piled on, year after year, that little old Baby, in a little old manger, in a little old Jewish town, gets shoved further back on the shelf we call December. Don’t buy any winter solstice or holiday season malarkey, Whitley. The birth of Jesus Christ is not a reason for billions of Christians to gather and give thanks for blessings too numerous to mention: It’s the reason.

Jolly Old St. Nicholas may or may not be the real deal, but Jesus Christ was, is, and will be. Folks can revise history all day and pretend that Gregory developed our calendar based on inspiration from a mythical Common Age rather than the historic Year of Our Lord. After Easter, the day we celebrate as Christmas is the most important on Christian calendars.

At the Hallmark Movie Channel, meanwhile, it seems that Christmas in July is second only to the real deal in December. We have absolutely no reason to believe that Jesus was actually born on December 25, but that means nothing in the grand scheme. What matters is that he actually was born. As Christians, He’s the center of our lives. Not a good man, not an influential prophet, but God incarnate.

For years, I had nothing good to say about Christmas in July. When I was a kid, holiday displays were broken out the day after Thanksgiving, and not a moment sooner. But after 28 years married to the saint who inexplicably puts up with me, I’ve thrown a flag of surrender. Bring it on, Hallmark.

Your scores of Christmas movies are all crafted from about five basic plots. Most feature one or two actors we know, or at least a cameo by a “name.” Most are a lot more about boy-meets-girl, girl-hates-boy, boy-grows-on-girl etc., than about Boy-Saves-Souls. But a few include church scenes, mentions of Jesus, and even singing of religious mainstays like Silent Night and Oh Holy Night. Christian films? Not by a long shot. But wholesome family fare, which is always welcome in our home.

Back to Whit Strieber: In a few weeks, Mr. S, set aside some time and watch a few Hallmark Christmas movies. They won’t give you religion and certainly won’t take the place of prayer and worship. But they do capture the magic of the season we remember from childhood. I think that’s pretty neat.

Christmas on Hallmark Network. — July or December — has only peripheral connection to a beloved holy day. But after years of humbugging, it dawned on me a while back that these harmless and mildly charming flicks put me in the mood for the real Christmas. They are an appetizer I can enjoy at home before an entre on my knees or in a pew.

We wish you a Merry CHRISTmas in July. And, by the way, my insert button can whip your delete key.

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